Sunday, 30 April 2017

Consistency, volume and frequency

This post is about getting better at something. Maybe you suck at it and want to get better, maybe you hate it, but it’s something you should do anyway, or maybe you’re just struggling to make progress.

For a great many things once a week isn’t enough. Trying to learn a skill, once a week practice won’t get you very far very fast. Trying to make a change (in your body or life) working on it once a week and ignoring it the other 6 days isn’t going to do much in the way of change. You’re basically wasting your time.

To make progress you (often) need at least twice a week, three times a week is possibly even better, four or more could be too often depending on what you are doing. Two examples of this that I have found is my shoulder mobility, and my wrist prep.

I had been working the wrist prep series from the gymnastic bodies’ handstand course once a week for a long time. There are four different exercises with multiple progressions. For three of the exercises I was able to make good progress, but one of them I was getting nowhere.  Every week was the same with very little observable progress. So I stepped it up to twice a week. Progress has still been slow, but it is there. I get observably better week to week. The element in question was more about gaining greater flexibly in my palm and fingers, stretching what must be quite tough muscle and connective tissue in the hand. Once a week was not enough to activate, and maintain a positive change in these tissues, but twice a week seems to be working. Three times a week might be better, and maybe I will try, but for now slow progress is still progress.

An example of slow but viable progress

I’ve written about my struggle gaining shoulder mobility before and some things that have helped in my post on the mobility stick. Another major help for increasing my shoulder mobility has been working in 2-3 times per week with multiple modalities. Previously I had been working shoulder mobility only once a week, with dislocates and another behind the back movement. I was getting better slowly, but not effectively. By adding in the shoulder and thoracic stretch routine weekly, and adding an additional day with the mobility stick I’ve been able to make slightly faster and more effective progress. I’m still far from perfect but I’m able to gain more mobility, and use the new range of motion more frequently during the week. 

In both cases it was not just consistently training these elements, but more frequency and more volume by adding a second training session. Often move volume is needed for better results, but be careful, stay withing recoverable limits or you'll do more harm than good.

If you want to make true change, once a week is not enough. If you care about something, focus on it, spend time on it. Start with one element you want to get better at, but are only working on once a week, and add a second day. Then re-evaluate, maybe add another day, or maybe pick another element which could use a twice a week scheduling. This way you are more likely to make these changes routine, trying to add too much all at once will burn you out physically and mentally and won’t create the change you’re after.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Squat stands (and bench stands).

As is my usual writing style, this is post is a bit long and wordy, but there is a point to it. I built these my way because it suits what I want to do with them but there are easier ways to go about setting this up so it’s (hopefully) worth reading to get some ideas that might suit you better. Also the end product looks a little scrappy, part off that is to do with saving money and part is to do with having these stands work for multiple purposes. You might not need so much functionality, and so your stands can look a lot better than mine.

I wanted to build myself some squat stands so after much Pinterest searching, and contemplating, I had to list of things I wanted from these stands. I wanted them to be movable, I wanted squat and bench height, for myself and my wife, and I want them to fit my fat bar (50mm). That’s a lot of functionality, and a lot going on in a small space.

First step was measuring and planning. The sizes that follow are for myself and my wife, and will likely be different for you, but I’ll list them anyway so you will have a ball park figure in mind. The bar height for me is 1460mm (Squat) and 1110mm (Bench). The bar height for my wife is 1360 (Squat) and 1010 (Bench). The front stops are 40mm higher on each, and the central back stop is 100mm higher than my squat bar height (I.E. 1560mm).

Front rack/Squat height with the fat bar
This is a lot of material and a lot of functionality. It would be much simpler (and cheaper) for just one person or for just squatting, or without wanting it to fit a fat bar. But I think if something is worth doing its worth over doing. Another option, if it is available to you, would be to get just two uprights from a squat stand or power cage, and concrete these into a bucket each, job done.

I bought dressed (smooth), H3 treated (above ground) framing timber. This is 92mm wide by 45mm thick. I cut each of these to the bar height sizes. I then cut the front stops for each bar height from 92x18mm window framing timber. The centre stops were then set up with off cuts. Having these sections not run full length save me some money, but makes the whole thing look a little scrappy.

That is the bulk of the material needed, but the 45mm thickness would not fit my fat bar. I cut some 8mm plywood packers to fit between the framing timber and the front stops, so that there would be space to fit the fat bar. I used plywood I had spare, so again there don’t run all the way, saving some money but making it look scrappy.

This is the two squat heights set up
Everything was screwed together, nailed together, and stood up in a bucket each. I filled each bucket with one bag of quick set cement which I mixed in a third, old bucket. Once set these were heavy enough to stay in place without wobbling too much, but light enough to move (A short distance).

These stands can do everything I want them to which is great. By no means am I saying this is the best design, it’s certainly not the simplest, but I hope it gives to some ideas of features and how you might go about them for your own stands.

Also for comparison these cost me about $130 to build and the cheapest commercially available option for me was a bit more than twice this price.

Should have warmed up first

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Mobility Stick

I’ve been using this piece of PVC pipe for a little over a year now for my shoulder mobility work as set out in the Gymnastic bodies’ handstand course; however I made one minor change recently which has made quite a bit of difference.

I’ll start back at the beginning, to show just why Mobility stick is my preferred option now. This may seem really basic, but trust me; I was able to stuff it up a few times.

The Gymnastic Bodies handstand course utilises lightly weighted mobility with a PVC pipe or wooden dowel for much of the first half of the course. I think the suggested weight is 2-5 pounds with Coach’s stronger athletes using 10-20kg. Now in my stubborn mind, 5kg seemed like a great place to start, and the bar I use on my pull up frame is about 5-6kg so I decided to use this.

So for the next 12-18 months I floundered around, making no progress on the mobility movements because the bar was so damn heavy I couldn’t complete the movements with anywhere close to correct form.

This steel pipe is way too heavy

Then I was listening to a podcast with Coach Sommer (I’m not even sure which one) where he spoke about starting with only 1kg in some cases. That when it hit me, the pipe was way too heavy for me. So I switched the steel pipe out for PVC with a 2.5kg weight. Suddenly I was able to do the movements. Not great, not even well, but at least the resembled what I should be doing.

I had been grinding along for about a year with the PVC pipe when I got the idea to add some marker points to get a gauge of how close I was to shoulder width (Or one hand with outside). So I got out some tape, marked out the center, shoulder width, then 1, 2 and 3 hand widths for shoulder width. This lead to the next big gains in shoulder mobility. Now I was able to better gauge where I was, where I was going, and where I was last session. This has helped me to push just a little harder each session, while not over doing it by setting my hands too close too soon.

So the take away from this twofold. Don’t use too heavy of a pipe, start very light (bonus point, make it load-able). And secondly, see up some markers you can work to. This last point kind of goes without saying, but if you’re not working on your shoulder mobility, you should be. Look up Gymnastic bodies, weighted dislocates (take their advice, not mine), and start working on it. Go slow, it could take years, but it’s worth doing. Don’t be lazy, work on it.

It may seem like 500 words is way too many to say wrap some PVC pipe with electrical tape, but I made mistakes so that you don’t have to.